How To Go To College For Free E Book


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15 tips to get the cost of college down and the income needed to attend up.

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How To Go To College For Free E Book

  1. 1. how to go to c ollege for FREE an eBook by Grant Baldwin
  2. 2. Think of paying for college like balancing a budget. Weird, I know. With a budget, you have two sides to the equation. What you have coming in (income) and what you have going out (expenses). When you make a budget, you want to do your best to have your income minus your expenses equal zero. If you are spending more than you make, then you end up with debt. Not good. So in order to avoid debt, either your income has to go up or your expenses have to go down. When you work on both sides of this equation, you can eventually get to zero. e incom s e -e xpens The same idea is true with college. Ideally, you want to - pay zero for that education. - zero - So in order to do that, either the income side needs to go up (working, scholarships, etc.) or the expenses side needs to go down (live at home, community college, etc.). Make sense? We’ll approach both sides of the coin and guide you in the process so you can work towards paying ZERO for college!
  3. 3. disclaimer The tips and ideas in this guide all mean nothing unless you do something with them. You can have all the knowledge in the world of what you should do, but unless you actually do something, you’re wasting your time. So if you’re not planning on doing anything with what you read, go wash the dog, finger-paint, or play Solitaire on the computer! But if you are willing to implement some of these tips and ideas, then read on. Buckle up. Let’s get to work. about the author Grant Baldwin is one of the leading money and financial literacy experts for youth today. He is the creator of, a website designed to give students the answers they’re looking for on questions about investing, savings, personal finance, and all things money. He is a popular motivational speaker among students and is the author of the book, Reality Check: The Student’s Guide to the Real World. Each year, Grant speaks to thousands of students through school assemblies, conferences, workshops, retreats, camps, and more. For more info check out or email Grant at
  4. 4. ts ta ble of conten get the income UP Submit The FAFSA Early 5 Get A Job 6 Become A Scholarship Ninja 7 Work-Study Programs 9 get the expenses DOWN Join The Military 10 Live At Home 14 Get Support From Family & Friends 11 Start At A Community College 15 Corporate Sponsorship 12 AP & CLEP Tests 16 Take A Gap Year To Save 13 Go To A Less Expensive School 17 Space It Out 18 Put Schools Against One Another 19 Stay In-State 20 now what? 21
  5. 5. get the income UP submit the FAFSA early The FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) is the mothership for helping students pay for college. It comes from the government and is the single largest source of financial aid. Pretty big deal, right? Here’s how the FAFSA works. Each year, literally millions of high school seniors (and current college students) submit the FAFSA form. The government uses this form to award grants (free money), loans, and work-study options based primarily on students’ needs. They’re working with a pot of about $95 billion (yes, that’s billion with a ‘B!’) to divide among students. Each year, January 1 is the first date you can begin to file your FAFSA. But instead of waiting until every single application has come in, they begin awarding dollars as soon as they begin receiving applications. So when do you think you have a better chance to receive more money? At the beginning, before the majority of students file their application and the government has a full pot of $95 billion or near the deadline when they get flooded with forms and the money is starting to run low? Exactly. Even if you think your family makes too much money and you won’t qualify, you should still file your application as soon as possible. You never know. now what? 1. Go to to get familiar with the process. The simplest thing to do is fill out the form online, so I’d recommend going that route. 2. Download the FAFSA form so you see what information they need and can start gathering that stuff. You’ll need one parent’s involvement since the FAFSA will require their tax return information and signature. 3. File your FAFSA on January 1 of your senior year. Use your Christmas break to get everything ready, so you can fill in the questions, hit ‘submit’ and get a quicker response.
  6. 6. get the income UP get a job The simplest way to start generating an income is to get a job. Brilliant, right?! Now I understand that the job market may not be the best at the moment but last time I checked, there are still companies that exist in the world that need employees in order to operate. Ideally, you want to find the perfect job where you get paid to do what you love, you have a flexible schedule, you work with all your friends, and your boss is not only super nice, but not bad to look at either! If you find that gig...congratulations. You’re in the minority. Most students your age probably won’t find that opportunity. Now I’m a huge fan of people doing what they love, but when you’re saving money for college, you just need an income. You can’t afford to be picky right now. You’re just looking for a paycheck. You have to remember that this job is just temporary. You’re just doing this to save money for college, so although some of your job options may not be ideal, you can survive them for a season. Also, look for jobs that offer tuition reimbursement. Usually you have to have worked there for a certain length of time or maybe have a specific major, but always look into it. The idea is that companies see the value of having educated employees, so if the knowledge you’re gaining in school could help you do your job better and help the company make more money, why wouldn’t they pay for your school? now what? 1. Update your resume. The job market is tight, so make sure you stand out from others. 2. Start looking. Go to places you shop, eat, or hang out and ask if they’re hiring. Check Craigslist for possibilities. Ask friends and family if they know of anything. Most jobs never get posted anywhere but people get hired just through word-of-mouth. Let others know you’re looking. Also, find out if they have tuition reimbursement. 3. Make a good impression. If you get an interview, show up early. Dress the part but don’t overdo it. Be polite. Be professional.
  7. 7. get the income UP become a scholarship ninja Scholarships are one of the simplest and best ways to get additional money for college. You already know this though, right? Then why haven’t you filled out 500 applications?!? Alright, I understand that the repetitive and redundant nature of applications doesn’t exactly excite the average student. But the fact still remains that scholarships are a gold mine of money for students going to college. So rather than trying to convince you that scholarships are worth the pain and hassle, let’s just do the math. Let’s assume it takes you an average of 1 hour to fill out an application for a scholarship. Sure, some will take a few hours and others may just take a few minutes. But most applications are fairly standard and consistent, so you’ll be able to do a lot of copy and pasting with your answers and even some of your essays. Let’s also assume that the average scholarship you get is only $500. Not quite as exciting as a $20,000 scholarship, but hey, 500 bucks is still 500 bucks! Finally, let’s assume you only get awarded 10% (1 out of 10) of the scholarships you apply for. Now with all that in mind, here’s how the math breaks down... APPLICATIONS RECEIVED $ AWARDED $ EARNED PER HOUR 10 1 $500.00 $50.00 50 5 $2500.00 $50.00 100 10 $5,000.00 $50.00 250 25 $12,500.00 $50.00 500 50 $25,000.00 $50.00 1,000 100 $50,000.00 $50.00
  8. 8. get the income UP become a scholarship ninja Obviously, in every case you’re earning $50 per hour. I know you’re not making that at some part- time summer gig! Keep in mind too that we figured all of this on the low end. Let’s say your average scholarship was $750 and you got awarded 15% of the scholarships you applied for...I like that math even better! I know it’s a lot of work, but let that math sink in. Let’s go to an extreme and say you applied for 1,000 scholarships this summer and got $50,000. There are tons of people that don’t earn $50,000 in an entire year! Here’s another way of looking at it. The average per-year cost of tuition at a public school is $6,585 or $26,340 for all four years. That means you could have enough scholarship money not only for your entire college education but plenty left over for books, living in the dorm, and other school expenses! I understand that applying for 1,000 scholarships seems overwhelming, so just break it down and set yourself a goal. Fill out 10 applications per day and you would have it done it 100 days or just over 3 months. Sure, you may not have much of a life during those few months, but remember the potential long-term gain for your short-term sacrifice. now what? 1. Check out these scholarship sites we recommend... 2. Fill out applications. (TIP: Create a system for filling out applications. For online applications, use an auto-filler, which will automatically fill in basic contact information and make the process go faster. Google has a free auto-filler.) 3. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
  9. 9. get the income UP work-study programs Most colleges and universities offer some type of work-study program that allows you to have a part-time job on campus while taking classes. The jobs are typically simple like working in the library, the gym, cafeteria, or even grounds-keeping. Most of the jobs aren’t real glamorous and you may not make a ton, but a huge advantage is the flexibility and location. They know you are taking classes on campus, so they will work hard to accommodate your schedule. In addition, you don’t have to drive 20 minutes to work since your job will be there on campus. It’s also important to know that some colleges offer their own job opportunities for students while others participate in a federally-sponsored work-study program. This basically means that the government pitches in to help pay your wages, but because of their assistance, these jobs are based on financial need. You can determine whether or not you qualify for the federal work-study program when you submit your FAFSA form. now what? 1. When you complete your FAFSA form, check the box that says you’re interested in student employment. Then you’ll find out if you qualify when you receive your financial aid award letter. 2. Contact the school you’ll be attending to see what kind of work-study opportunities they have. Just go to the college’s website and do a search for “work-study” and you’ll find who you need to talk to.
  10. 10. get the income UP join the military Serving in the military is consistently one of the best ways to get funds for college. Of course, this option may not be for everyone, and there are certainly risks involved going this route. But the fact remains that you can earn a ton of money for college by joining the military. A lot of military scholarship programs will not only cover all of your tuition but also pay for your books, fees, and even a stipend for living expenses. You can basically earn funding from the military in one of two ways. You can earn tuition money while you serve, or you can attend college, and they’ll pay for it provided that you commit to serve after you graduate. To determine your options, you might want to look into local ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) programs or even Junior ROTC programs while still in high school. Here are some ROTC sites for the different military branches... Army ROTC Navy ROTC Air Force ROTC TIP: If you have a family member that has served in the military or fought in combat, there are tons of scholarship opportunities available for you. Look those puppies up and get that money! now what? 1. Consider if the military is for you. Some students have family members that have served, and they feel a sense of duty to also serve. Other students just know they would probably pee their pants and start crying during basic training, so it’s not a good choice for them! 2. Consider your options. Which branch of the military is most appealing to you and gives you some great options into the future? What kind of commitments would each opportunity require? 3. Talk to a local recruiting officer. Once you narrow down the branches that you’re interested in, go to an actual recruiting office. Look them up online and find the closest one to you. There you can get more information about the next steps involved.
  11. 11. get the income UP get support from family & friends Now I understand that everyone’s situation is different and some families are better off financially than others. I also understand that everyone’s relationship with their family is different and that asking for money can be a touchy subject for anyone. That being said, don’t dismiss the possibility of family members financially supporting you going to college. I’m not telling you in anyway to be lazy or bum around looking for a handout. While you could just come right out and ask for cold, hard cash, most students don’t want to do that and most family members aren’t interested in helping that way. Here are some specific ways to get financial support from family or friends... - Contribute To A College Savings Plan – If you currently have a 529 Plan or Education Savings Account for college, your family can contribute funds to that account. - Give Directly To The College – Instead of writing you a check, someone can go directly to the college you’re attending and pay for part of your tuition or expenses. - 3rd Party Sources – There are several new websites out there that give other people the opportunity to contribute to someone else’s educational expenses. Here are a few sites to check out... - Earn money for college with purchases from various retailers. You can also get credit from purchases made by family and friends. - A very simple site to use to contribute to someone else’s college savings account. - Basically, get sponsored to make good grades. Pretty cool concept. now what? 1. Make a list of family members and friends who may be interested in helping support you go to college. Every little bit helps, so don’t just pick the wealthiest people you know. 2. Determine your approach. Have an action plan when you contact people. Are you asking them to send you a check? Are you asking them to join one of the websites listed above? Don’t just leave it open ended by saying, “Can you help me go to college?” Give them an action step. 3. Ask. Write a letter. Send an email. Make a phone call. This isn’t a hard sales pitch, so don’t be pushy. And anyone that contributes anything deserves a hand-written thank you card at the very least.
  12. 12. get the income UP corporate sponsorship This is a relatively new concept, but it can work. Another term you may have heard it referred to is being an “indentured servant.” You may recall that phrase from history class and the idea of being a slave comes to mind...which of course is unappealing! Remember that more and more companies are looking to hire high quality talent out of school. Because of that, here’s the trend that is developing. Instead of a tuition reimbursement offer (after you’ve already paid for the schooling), some companies are offering to pay for your school up front in exchange that you would work for their company for a set period of time (usually a few years) once you graduate. Not a bad idea, huh? Your commitment to the company may be anywhere from 3-5 years or perhaps longer. This is really gaining popularity in the medical field because of the high cost of education in that industry. Pharmaceutical companies are offering to pay for a student’s tuition as long as they commit to working for that company after they graduate. After your contract with that company is up, you are free to do whatever you want. now what? 1. Make a list of companies that not only you might be interested in working for once you graduate but also who may have the means to offer a sponsorship opportunity like this. It will probably be a bigger corporation and not some local mom-and-pop store. 2. Contact those companies’ HR departments and ask if they offer any type of program like this. 3. Use the power of the Internet to find specific companies that offer this and learn more about what they’re looking for and the commitment required.
  13. 13. get the income UP take a gap year to save You may have heard about this growing trend among graduating high school students called a “Gap Year.” A gap year has been popular in Europe and Australia but in recent years is starting to gain some appeal in the United States. A gap year is basically taking a year off between high school graduation before you start college or whatever that next phase of your life will be. During that time, you may choose to work, travel, start a business, do volunteer work, or pursue some other passion in your life. If you’re getting ready to graduate and you don’t know what you’re going to do with your life, a gap year may be a good choice for you to not only evaluate what the next step may be, but also to save money. If you took a solid year with the goal of working 40-60 hours a week and just busting your butt, you could save a good chunk of change. Of course the idea is that you are saving that money towards college and not saving a few hundred bucks just to go out and blow it. It takes discipline and learning to delay gratification, but it’s worth it. now what? 1. Determine if a gap year is right for you. Do you know what you want to study? Do you know where do you want to attend college? Are you disciplined and responsible enough to actually save the money you earn during a gap year? 2. Create a savings goal for yourself. For example, your goal could be to earn $25,000 during this gap year and that you’ll save $20,000 of it for college. 3. Set up an online savings account (i.e. HSBC Direct, ING Direct) that you can have your paychecks direct deposited into. By using an online account, it makes it more difficult to access the money for spur-of-the-moment spending or frequent ATM withdrawals.
  14. 14. get the expenses DO WN live at home While I certainly understand that you’re counting down the days until you can move out, I would encourage you to slow down a little bit. I know that living on your own seems awesome (and most days it is!), but it also brings with it a new set of financial responsibilities. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to live on campus to experience dorm life, you can literally save yourself thousands of dollars by living at home during a few semesters of your college years. A study by College Board from 2006-2007 found that the average cost of room and board for public universities was $6,636 and was $7,791 for private universities. In addition, they say the cost of on-campus housing goes up around $400 each year. So fast-forward to today and those numbers are probably closer to $8,000 and $10,000 per year! Considering you live on campus for about 8 months out of the year, that works out to be between $1,000 and $1,250 each month! Even if your parents decided to charge you a little rent, it will be cheaper than living on campus. In addition, even if it costs you extra gas money each week, you still come out ahead by a mile if you live at home. now what? 1. You’re not the only one excited about moving out. Although it may be bittersweet, your parents are looking forward to you being out as well! So if you decide to stay, you really need to sit down with them and have a conversation about why you want to stay at home and see how they feel about it. 2. If you’re parents are cool with the idea, come up with some guidelines for how this living arrangement will work. Sure, you may be 18 years old and technically an adult, but if you’re going to live with them, you still have to play by some of their rules.
  15. 15. get the expenses DO WN start at a community college A great way to cut down on the overall expense of college is to start at a local community college. Get your general education classes (math, reading, history, science, etc.) knocked out there - you’ll find it to almost always be much less expensive. In case you forgot, look at the numbers again for the average cost of tuition for each type of school... Private College - $25,143 Public College - $6,585 Community College - $2,402 You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out it’s significantly cheaper to take classes at a community college than a private or public university. Keep in mind that with just about any major you’re going to have to take a certain amount of general education classes. If it is basically the same class being taught, would you rather pay $2,000 for that class at a private university or $200 for the SAME class at a community college? Get all your general education classes taken care of at a community college and then transfer them to a “better” school that you’re interested in attending later. I did this for two semesters in college, and it saved me thousands of dollars! now what? 1. Get a list of the required general education classes for your intended major from the school that you’re planning on transferring to and getting your degree from. 2. Talk to the school you want to attend later to make sure the community college classes you are planning on taking will transfer. Assuming they’re cool with that, get something in writing so you’re covered if something were to ever change. 3. Compare the list of classes required from your future school with what the community college offers. Sign up for classes and start saving money!
  16. 16. get the expenses DO WN AP & CLEP tests These are two great ways to earn college credit and save money while still in high school. AP (Advanced Placement) and CLEP (College Level Examination Program) are programs that allow you the opportunity to receive college credit for what you already know by earning qualifying scores on various tests. I came across an extreme example recently of a student who enrolled at the University of Virginia and had 72 Advanced Placement credits! SEVENTY-TWO! So before this guy even stepped foot on campus, he was a college junior! As a point of reference, the fee for an AP exam is currently $86 and for CLEP test is only $70. Although the college you’re attending may charge you a little bit to accept those credits, it will be a fraction of the full price to take the actual class. Not only do you save money, but also you save time, so that you can take more of the classes you want to take rather than the ones you have to take. now what? 1. Talk to your high school counselor to see what AP classes or CLEP tests may be available through your school. 2. Contact the college you’ll be attending to determine what their requirements are for accepting AP or CLEP credit. 3. Sign up and prep for the tests. Study, prepare, and do what you need to do to be ready come test day.
  17. 17. get the expenses DO WN go to a less expensive school Let me state a fact that you may not want to might not be able to afford to go to the school of your dreams. It’s true. The myth that a lot of students are fed is that because you’re investing in education, price should be irrelevant. There are a lot of things in life that are important and education is one of them. My home is important. It’s where I live. It’s where I spend most of my time. It’s where I create memories with my family. But just because my home is important doesn’t mean I can spend any dollar amount necessary to get my dream home. It doesn’t work like that. Now if I have the money to just pay for it, that’s one thing, but my guess is you don’t. The same principle is true with cars, vacations, and clothes. What makes us think that education gets a free pass and that we’re justified in graduating with piles of debt? Sure you may want a “nicer” education or _____________ (fill in the blank) but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford it. I’m sorry if you’ve had your heart set on an outrageously expensive school, and now I’m raining on your parade! Keep in mind that most companies and businesses aren’t as interested in the name on the degree as we think they are. Now I understand that in certain industries and professions, where you graduated from carries some significant weight. But most of the time, where the degree came from means more to the person who got it than the person reading the resume. The knowledge is valuable, not the name on the piece of paper. now what? 1. Evaluate if you’ve got your heart set on a school you can’t afford. Why are you interested in that particular school? What makes you think you can’t find a similar experience at a less expensive school? 2. Do your homework. Can you find the same degree program for less elsewhere? Compare apples to apples and see if what you’re really paying for justifies the value of what you’re receiving.
  18. 18. get the expenses DO WN space it out When you go to college, you probably figured out that you don’t pay one lump sum for the entire semester. Your tuition bill is based on the number of classes or credit hours you take. Because of this, another approach to getting your tuition expense down is by taking fewer classes each semester. Obviously, there are pros and cons to this route, but from a financial perspective, you’ll take fewer classes, so you should be able to work more and save up more and just pay cash for your classes as you go. Sure, the overall process may be stretched from 4 years to 5 or maybe even 6, which again comes with it’s own set of pros and cons. But again, the goal is that you cash flow your entire college education, and each semester just take the number of classes that you have the cash to pay for. Only buy what you can afford... brilliant concept huh?! (Be sure to check out the classic SNL sketch with Steve Martin called “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.”) now what? 1. Crunch the numbers. Figure out how much you can earn working and then figure up how much each class or credit hour costs at your college. You should be able to do the math and figure up how many classes you can afford to take. 2. Be patient. I understand that dragging out the college experience an extra year or two doesn’t sound appealing, and you may prefer to just get in there and knock it out. But have a long-term perspective that you’re doing this to save money and to prevent having piles of student loan debt when you graduate.
  19. 19. get the expenses DO WN put schools against one another There is not only a lot of competition among students trying to get into selective schools, but there is also a lot of competition among colleges to attract the best talent. If you’ve ever purchased some big-ticket item such as a car, you know one of the best forms of negotiation is to find two different stores with the same product and put them against one another. “Over at XYZ Store, they have this same product for 10% less than you do. Can you beat that price?” Then you take the new price over to the original company and see if they can beat it again. You do this a time or two until you get the best possible price for the item. It may not be talked about much, but this works with colleges. If you’re a high-quality student and multiple schools are interested in you, why not put them against one another? I’ve heard about this a few times from students but one particular student I spoke with went back and forth between two schools and got an additional $10,000 in scholarships! now what? 1. Write out on paper what your full financial aid offers are from each school, so you can compare apples to apples. Don’t include outside scholarships or funding. Just what you would receive if you went to each particular school. 2. Contact the schools individually to tell them what the other school’s offer was and see if they would match it or beat it. 3. Keep going back and forth until you have received the best possible financial aid package from each school.
  20. 20. get the expenses DO WN stay in-state As you shop around looking at and comparing different colleges, you may have noticed that it costs quite a bit more to go to college in another state. The difference can be just a few hundred bucks to over $10,000. The difference may seem small per credit hour but added up over your entire college experience, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars difference. There are a couple of reasons why colleges do this... - Public colleges and universities receive government funding that comes from state taxpayers. Schools assume if you stay in-state, you (and your family) have paid your taxes and therefore helped pay for the school. -If you stay in-state and get your degree, you’re more likely to find a job in that state as well. The more highly-educated and qualified people in a state’s workforce, the better the economy for that state. now what? 1. If you haven’t decided what college you want to attend yet, start by looking only at schools in-state. Challenge yourself to stay in-state and find something that will work for you. 2. If you’re looking for a very specific degree that isn’t offered at any school in-state or if your heart is set on a different school out-of-state, explore the other options in this eBook to get the cost down, so it makes it worth it to leave the state.
  21. 21. now what? You probably noticed that each chapter ended with a list of steps under the heading “Now What?” My goal is that you would do more than just read about some of these ideas, but that you would act on them. Like you read in the disclaimer at the beginning of this e-book, if you just read this but don’t do anything differently, then you’ve wasted your time. So what are you going to do now? Do you really believe you can pay ZERO to go to college? I believe you can. I believe that your work and effort with these ideas will save you thousands and thousands of dollars on your college education. And on top of that, your hard work will save you years of student loan debt payments that many of your peers will be burdened by. Keep us updated on your progress, and be sure to email us with your success stories. If you saved money with one of these ideas or you earned some extra income from a scholarship or extra job, we want to hear about it. Email me at, and let us know about your progress. Visit to find answers to other questions you may have about finances, savings, and all things money.